I was reading an article over at Slate that linked to this post by Rebecca Watson, titled "Why I Don't Just Go to the Cops." It's written as a response to the advice she gets from well meaning people that hear about the kind of online harassment she suffers. She's a prominent, outspoken female blogger in the skeptic community, which means she's pretty familiar with insane death threats from total maniacs.
The first one came back in 2005 when I lived in Boston and had just launched Skepchick. I was able to write up a short article about the project for an issue of eSkeptic, Michael Shermer’s free email newsletter. Within a day of that eSkeptic hitting in-boxes, I received a brief email from a man calling me a cunt. I responded with a chipper “Thanks for taking the time to write!” He responded with, “If I lived in Boston I’d put a bullet in your brain.”
That escalated quickly.
I checked his IP address and found he was most likely writing from North Carolina. I called the Boston police and described the exchange. They told me there wasn’t much they could do because he apparently lived in another state. They offered to take down a report, but admitted that nothing would come of it unless someone one day put a bullet in my brain, at which point they’d have a pretty good lead.
I consider myself a skeptic as well, at least as far as the po-lice are concerned. From my own experience with pretty straightforward, easily provable crimes, I know that you can gift wrap a slam-dunk case and serve it up to them on a silver platter without them seeming to give the slightest bit of a fuck. It's actually kind of baffling, but it is what it is. I never want to jump in and discourage people when I see that advice being passed out here, because I'd feel like a jerk, and it's not like I have any better ideas to share. Besides, it's at least theoretically possible for the wheels of justice to work as they ought, and there's not necessarily any harm in requesting that they do so.
Btw, reading the comments will only inspire bone-deep fatigue and malaise.